Thursday, 11 April 2013

Watch the film Kigali Street Kidz!

First of all, thank you everyone for all of the support leading up to now. This film has been a labor of love, and I hope that it inspires you all in your own lives. If you feel up to it, please leave comments here or on the vimeo page. The more views and comments we get, the more the message will spread. Also, you are welcome to share and re-post to your heart's desire. Thank you!

It was exactly one year ago yesterday that Dorota and I first stepped onto Rwandan soil together. We never knew where this new path would take us, but we are overjoyed that it is still a major part of our lives and we are still sharing the adventure with you all.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

International Day for Street Children

Since Dorota and I announced that we would be launching the film "Kigali Street Kids" on International Day for Street Children (12 April!) you may have been wondering what this day is all about.

The Consortium for Street Children (CSC) first launched the day in 2011. It is celebrated every year on 12 April and its purpose is to provide a platform for street children worldwide – and the people who work to help them – to speak out, so that their rights cannot be ignored.

Their theme this year is Home Street Home – highlighting that for many children across the world, including in the UK, the street is their home. Look for the CSC team on the streets of London this Friday. Please don't ignore them and try to shuffle past in the crowd, because they are NOT trying to get your credit card details ;) All they need from us is to sign their petition. In fact, why not click here to sign it right now.

The petition is to get the UN to officially recognise the International Day for Street Children. If the UN does adopt it, this will result in greater exposure, permanence and pressure on governments to act. For more, click on the "We demand a day" image below, and get involved!

And don't forget to tune in right here on B, D and The Boys, Thursday night at midnight (GMT), for the free online screening of "Kigali Street Kidz".

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Kigali Street Kidz Online Film Debut

To start off, here is the official film poster for "Kigali Street Kidz", featuring the medium format photography of Paul Eggleston Brown:

Below is a teaser for my short film "Kigali Street Kidz"which documents hardship and hope with the street children of Rwanda. Its purpose is to raise awareness of their situation. The film will debut online on 12 April 2013, which marks the International Day for Street Children. You will be able to view the film streaming right here on

This project was made possible by the generosity, trust and love of the street children themselves, their families and the Rwandan people who work to help them.

A film by Bret Syfert
Backstory, logistics and translation by Willy Mutabazi
Still photography by Paul Eggleston Brown
Film score by Eric Biondo

The teaser contains the track "Ubuzima Twabayemo" performed by a group of former street children named "Gisiment Boys" and produced by Cisum. Film soundtrack available for free at:

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Video Reruns and Future Film

Well, time has rocketed on, and it seems like a lifetime since we were back in Rwanda. It has been a long time since Dorota and I have posted as well, but there are big things on the horizon for B, D and of course The Boys. I have just completed a new short film called "Kigali Street Kidz", and it tells the true story of the Rwandan street children situation as told by the children themselves, their families and the Rwandan people who work to help them.

The film will debut this month. In the meantime, I thought it would be fun to look back at some of the short videos we made during our time in Rwanda (including the the two music videos of the winners of the Kigali Street Kidz album contest).

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Thank You Until Next Time

Last week in Rwanda... last week at EDD... last week with the boys… I am writing this sitting at the airport in Doha, waiting for my flight to London. I feel somewhat detached, as if I am in denial of what I have just experienced. It was a very emotional LAST week. The very thought of that word LAST makes me shiver. I did not want it to be the LAST week. I was not ready to leave.

I could see in the eyes of some of the boys that they were processing this information as well. I have discussed our departure with them many times and they all knew the time was nearing. Some of them started acting up out of the blue, others became quiet and withdrawn, others very affectionate. Many were asking questions throughout the week about the imminent departure, how many days we had left together, when Bret and I would come back to Rwanda, and so on. As my heart grew heavier and heavier, my feelings of guilt also increased exponentially that last week. I felt that I was abandoning the boys, that the timing was SO wrong, that we had made too much progress building solid relationships to simply up and leave. I had serious thoughts about extending our stay, but life on the other, Western, side was also running its course and it would not be easy to stop those wheels which were already set in motion.

Sadness was my shadow that week. It was overwhelming and exhausting. All of the days were filled to the brim with activities and things to sort out. Maybe this is why I had not completely fallen apart emotionally, because of the adrenaline, the rush of getting things done before our departure.

I cannot describe in words how hard it was to leave, but I had never imagined back in April that it would be THIS hard when the time came. We spent most of our time that last week at the centre, extending our days there until after dark. The library was the usual hub of activities and conversations. Many boys with whom I had not really spoken much before came by to chat. They wanted to thank me for everything I had done. I was taken aback by their kindness and honesty.

After last week's song competition and party, Bret was shooting two music videos of the winning groups, we had visitors arrive from England and there was a lot of excitement connected to football. One of the games involved Bret, and his team won when, as keeper, he blocked a penalty shot. Both teams crowded around and carried him off the pitch. It was a great goodbye match. Friday was also our last day with the staff. We prepared some small gifts and thank you cards for all staff members and shared lunch together, followed by some lovely pineapple. Everyone was extremely kind and sweet, and grateful for our work at the centre. We could not have wished for better hosts. I could feel my throat tighten as I was saying my thank yous. I am terrible with goodbyes. I absolutely despise them and have a terrible predisposition to crying like a little baby. Tears were shed and lips were trembling.

Around 3pm we were scheduled to meet with all of the boys in the dining hall to hand out our final gifts and say goodbye. Slowly but surely the boys gathered in the dining hall. We had planned a screening of all of the short videos Bret had made for our blog as they nicely document the many happy moments of our time at the centre. The boys and some staff watched them with attention, every now and then bursting with laughter. It was a happy sight yet I found myself standing slightly outside the main door, having to hold in the tears welling up in my eyes. Many deep breaths allowed me to stay semi-composed, but as I was looking at the many happy faces watching the videos I was feeling overwhelmed with sadness. Even recalling these moments now sitting on the floor of Doha airport makes me teary. I can imagine how a surrogate mother might feel giving up her baby, only I was giving up over a hundred of them!

After the screening, we gave out some sweets and, most importantly, each boy received a CD with all of the songs recorded by Bret for the Kigali Street Kidz album (FREE to download), produced by many of Bret's friends and mastered by Dave Clayton. This gift was met with much applause, especially due to the fact that each CD was in a sleeve with a fresh graphic by our designer friend A76! More on this in our last post.

When all the gifts were handed out, one of the ministers spoke on behalf of the boys to say thank you. We were very moved. Rwandans have a custom of rubbing their palms together and sending sunshine and happiness your way in a special gesture. They do not do it often, so when they did it for us I cried. I was sitting on one of the benches, amongst the boys who looked at me in amazement as my big tears fell on their little arms. They knew I was sad and they were telling me how sad they were. That did not help either. I really had to fight hard to keep myself together and not break into loud sobs.

My crying performance was far from over as many of the boys with whom we have bonded the most wanted to come up in front of everyone in the assembly to say their thank yous and express their thoughts. Some spoke in English, some in Kinyarwanda, and Charles, the social worker, kindly translated for us. These words meant the world to me and also made me see that despite any issues or doubts, our overall impact there was positive. Our stay and work was meaningful to these boys. They were sad to see us leave and told us specifically why we had mattered to them. It was lovely but also very emotional. We even had two older boys perform a cappella for us – our goodbye songs. I left Bret to say a few words as I simply could not speak.

Staff also came forward to thank us and we heard many warm and kind words. I was overjoyed to hear that they appreciated our contribution and enjoyed working with us, and that we had both learnt things from one another.

We then also gave out some prizes to about 30 boys who had worked the hardest in the library. The commotion helped to take my mind off things for a few minutes. Most prizes were for boys who diligently and without fail came to the library almost every day to draw. We gave out paints, colored pencils, coloring books, etc. There were also about ten disciplined boys who had been coming to the library to read and work on their English. They received dictionaries and notebooks.

I then received a note from one of my star pupils at the centre. He was helping me with the prizes and once we had finished and I closed the door, I sat down to read the note. He was standing next to me and I just could not hide my tears. It was very moving to read. I was so proud to read his lovely handwriting and clear English, not to mention all the kind words. I also read a card signed by the entire staff and filled with even more warmth and kindness, which inevitably made me cry more.

Luckily, the sun was setting and I was now able to hide my puffy eyes and tears in the greyish light of dusk. We sat and chatted with the boys in the library well after dark until we decided to head home. It was Bret's last time at EDD so many last hugs were exchanged. Once we got past the gate, I was crying like a fountain. We both cried some more on the bus ride home, while packing our bags and some more in the shower. It was a tough day. I felt physically exhausted and so very sad. I could not fall asleep for hours.

The next day, I returned to EDD despite my fears of yet another emotional rollercoster. The boys were happy to see me and it was great to see them. Thanks to Ian's sale of TOMS and his mum's help, we received some more underwear and I was able to give each boy a brand new pair of boxers. It was fun to be able to get that done. I then spent some time chatting with them and enjoying their company and slipped away before dusk, saying my second goodbye to just a few. It was again hard to leave, even harder because I knew that I would not be back the next day, or the one after that.

Sunday was hard. Neither Bret nor I had slept much the night before due to waves of anxiety and emotion. When I woke up and went onto the porch, the mountains were covered in thick fog. The sky was grey and it was raining slightly. Once again, it seemed, the weather appeared to reflect how I felt. I was sad. As I have said, sadness seemed to have become my inseparable companion this last week. I continued busying myself with chores and final tasks. Willy arrived at the house soon after, unusually quiet and withdrawn. I tried to put on a happy face and make a few jokes but we all knew the inevitable departure time was in sight. We also had to say goodbye to Sangeetha, the centre's accountant, who has become, along with her husband and sons, a good friend. That goodbye was also not without tears.

Rafiki and his wife drove us to the airport where some more members of staff and two boys surprised us by arriving to see us off. I was hungrily looking at the mountains before walking up the stairs to the plane, as if I wanted to remember every detail forever.

Sitting on the plane and seeing familiar streets and buildings grow smaller and smaller as we flew away from our home for almost five months felt very bizarre. I had grown so attached to the place in this short space of time. We had become a part of a community, meeting people we knew on the street and exchanging greetings and smiles. Rwanda is a special place and it will be hard to be back in the much more impersonal world of London. I cannot imagine how this transition will unfold. All I know is that I feel a great void and a slight dizziness sitting at Doha now, as if someone has taken a part of me away.

Throughout this adventure we had support from our friends and family back in the Western world. They followed our blog and sent us messages of encouragement, which may have seemed like nothing to them, but to us this was huge. It helped us to stay strong and focused on our mission knowing that people elsewhere cared about us and were being inspired by what we were trying to accomplish.

So many people have donated and made it possible for us to complete various projects in Rwanda, one of the last and largest was acquiring lockers for the boys. Our friends Dave and Kate came through big time in the home stretch, so thank you all so much for that! In total, we ordered 42 lockers at a local cooperative. They were made from scrap metal, which was reclaimed and hammered into sheets. Here is a short video showing the locker production. Bret is always excited to see how many tasks which would normally be done by complex machines in the West, are carried out by hand here in Africa.

The lockers were intended for the new upper floor dorm and were going to provide each boy with their own personal space (at the moment most boys share lockers 2 to 1). However, after careful inspection we have decided that the space is too limited in the upper floor dorm to keep the lock-boxes between beds. The boxes will instead be given to boys who each year go to secondary school (this year it is 12 boys), and will allow them to keep their belongings safe (they usually leave the centre and go to boarding schools in various parts of Rwanda). Rafiki, the centre's manager, suggested that the money the centre would have to spend on buying these lock-boxes could be used to have some locked cabinets built on the second floor. So, it is a winning situation for all.

We would also like to say an official thank you to family, friends and colleagues who have donated to us and therefore made a donation to the boys and the centre. Your donations made our various projects possible, including purchasing shoes, lockers, producing CDs and most importantly – donating around $1650 in cash directly to the centre's account, which shall be used to provide education, healthcare and food for the boys.

We would like to thank the following people for their monetary contributions:

• Dave Warner aka Serval for his most generous support and backing throughout the project
• Misan Begho for his 'save the day' donation
• Dorota's colleagues from Darling Associates in London for all donations (including the one from the directors)
• Shirley and Steve Syfert for wonderfully supporting our project
• Steve and Danielle Davis for their amazing contribution
• DJ Floskel
• Rachele Agnusdei
• Kate Scanlan
• Marcin Piatek and Anna Bauer
• Aaron Grill
• James Stride
• Iris Godding
• Gianluca Galetti
• Anoushka Isaac
• Piotr Doszna
• Krystian Godlewski
• Ti Nghiem
• Lisa Sweeney
• Sarah Thelwall
• Kristy Gosling and Barry Woods
• Barry Gibb
• Sam Elliot

We would also like to thank our friend Malcolm Chivers for taking care of our little flat in London and making it possible for us to have a home to come back to (and a well-kept one too!). Major thanks are also due to our landlord, Roland, who has been most supportive of our venture.

Bret has already written a post about all of his amazing and inspiring musician, producer and designer friends who contributed their time and talent in order to make the Kigali Street Kidz album happen. Here is to them again!

Many of our friends, family and even complete strangers have shown us incredible support and encouragement before our journey commenced as well as throughout our adventure. Many words of kindness and genuine appreciation have helped us to keep on going. We are grateful for all the support given to us and faith shown in our venture. We hope that following our blog has opened a window onto life in another part of the world and inspired people to make positive changes in their own communities. One final note is that we want to return to Rwanda some day to continue this work. We have left many friends there, who are now a part of our life and our community, so the work must continue.

Friday, 24 August 2012

Kigali Street Kidz Album Goes Public

We have been writing about the Kigali Street Kidz album project on and off for a while now. Luckily, we were able to finish it completely in our final week at the centre. To sum it up, many boys at the centre have formed their own R&B, Hip Hop and Gospel groups, some of which have been together since their days on the streets. These boys write and sing their own songs about their past lives in hell, but they always have a message of hope as well. Unfortunately, they mostly only sing in Kinyarwanda, so the messages are lost on Western listeners like myself, but the impact of seeing an eight-year-old rhyming fearlessly with an ice-cold stare is enough to communicate the gravity of what they are singing about. The message is this, "We have been treated like animals and forced to live in sewers and prisons, but we are looking you dead in the eyes and saying that we are NOT animals. We have hope. We have love. We have each other. We will be something."

Here is how it went down. We made a list of the groups with songs, and I recorded them one at a time in the nearby cowshed with a portable MP3 recorder while they sang to the rhythm of a metronome on my phone. I arranged and posted these vocal recordings on soundcloud. I then sent out a request to every producer/DJ I know asking if anyone could bless these tracks with instrumentals. To my amazement, the response was overwhelming, and before long all the tracks were finished. The final tracks were mastered together as a full album by my sound engineer friend Dave Clayton of Natural Selection Musica. A76 also created a beautiful album cover for the project, combining African styles with traditional Hip Hop flyer styles. Here is a list of all the tracks we made in the end along with producer credits. These producers gave up their own time and offered their talents and creativity to these boys' songs for free, and they can never know the happiness this gave the children. Thank you one and all!

01. ubuzima twabayemo (produced by Cisum) by Gisiment Boys

02. ababana bumuhanda (produced by ash.OK) by True Boys

03. ntawe uzagusimbura (produced by Eric Biondo) by T.Y.J.

04. agaciro kumu nyarwanda URBANADDICTIVE EDIT [produced by Groovem & $Bill (Kind & Kinky Zoo)] by Angel Boys

05. harigihe urukundo rwamwuzuye (produced by J.Kid) by Hope Choir

06. ubuzima mvamo (produced by Clayton & Fulcrum) by Talent Boys

07. king of hip hop (produced by Floor Phantom & Dynamo) by Time Boyz

08. life of street children [produced by Groovem & $Bill (Kind & Kinky Zoo)] by Empire State

09. agashari kumuhanda (produced by Raphael Williams) by Drago & Young Shooter

10. reggae (produced by Dave Clayton) by Lucky

11. harigihe urukundo rwamwuzuye (produced by Floskel) by Hope Choir

12. agaciro kumu nyarwanda [produced by Groovem & $Bill (Kind & Kinky Zoo)] by Angel Boys

13. nya dwight (produced by Young Believers) by Jean Paul

Once the album was complete, I had 130 copies burned here in Kigali by a "guy with a CD burner". The Sulfo Company offered me the use of their photocopier so I was able to print the cover image by A76 and then hand make the 130 sleeves to hold the CDs myself by cutting and glueing them at home.

As a surprise, we handed out the album to every single boy at the centre, as well as every member of staff, on my last day there. It filled me with joy to see everyone getting into this. The sight of staff and children listening to their CDs together, proudly singing along, is something that made this entire effort worthwhile.

Dorota, Willy and I also rented some sound equipment and held a song competition for the boys the week before that. Each group preformed their song in front of the entire centre. It was sort of a lip-synching concert, but the microphone worked, so the boys were able to sing overtop of their own songs as they blasted out of the loudspeakers. It was a hilarious and fun event. Ourselves and the staff judged the groups on music, performance and style, while one of the boys, Abdallah, emceed.

The prize for the winners was that I would make a new music video of their song. Well, that footage has already been shot, so stay tuned for the online unveiling in the next couple of weeks.

After the competition was over, the boys were pretty pumped, so we hit them with our final surprise. We had gotten permission from the centre to keep the party going after hours. Willy provided the boys' favorite Kinyarwanda songs with his new laptop, and the speakers thumped into the night. We danced for hours. I have been to many parties and clubs in my days, but I have to tell you, nobody parties like these kids! Music is their doorway to freedom, and they let it all hang loose on the dance floor. At the end of the night Dorota and I were both dripping in sweat and tears.

Below is a short video to sum up the excitement. It is set to a song by the youngest group on the album, True Boys, and now you can download the entire album for free at

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Mind Storm

Things ended up accelerating well beyond our expectations. The busyness we had predicted for our last two weeks definitely become a reality. We even missed our last three regular Sunday blog posts! The truth is, we are writing this during our four-hour layover on our journey home. We will spare you the emotional conclusion to this life-changing adventure for now, and instead use this post to look back and review the events that led up to our departure.

Two weekends ago, Faraz (whose family set up the centre 10 years ago) and his mother arrived in Kigali for three days. We have been working closely with Faraz, advising him of our impressions and observations at the centre. Together we have been trying to figure out what the best way forward for the centre is and what actions are most needed. A recent announcement from the Rwandan government that they plan to close all orphanages and street children centers caused a lot of anxiety and indiscipline amongst boys. They started fearing that they would end up on the street again. Luckily, Faraz had a meeting with a representative from the National Commission for Children. The outcome was positive. The government has a long-term plan, so the centre will not close any time soon (at least for another 5–10 years) and the person heading the commission is very interested to work with the centre to find the best possible solutions for the children who find themselves in this precarious situation. The news was welcomed by the boys (and ourselves) with a great sigh of relief.

We had a meeting with Faraz to discuss various aspects of the centre and offer our view and input. Sadly, this was our last meeting with him as on-site volunteers, but our involvement and support from overseas is unlikely to cease! We also had the pleasure of meeting Faraz's mother, who herself is a psychotherapist. For a while now, we have been discussing the issue of offering wider support and therapy to the boys, most of whom have been abused in many ways. Faraz's mother has kindly agreed to help establish and oversee such help and we hope that this will take the centre to the next level. The poverty from which these boys have come has been alleviated, their basic needs are being met, they have access to healthcare and education. It is an amazing achievement and a great success. But no great success should mean that one should rest on their laurels. We have become all too-aware of severe and complex trauma in some of the boys, which would best be helped and dealt with by trained and compassionate professionals. Faraz, with his mother's support, is now working to provide that for the boys and by doing so, will be helping them heal the scars, which are invisible on the surface. This is a very positive and exciting new turn for EDD and we will be anxious to see how it progresses.

We have previously mentioned our concerns about boys remaining at the centre for too long, losing their survival skills and becoming dependent on EDD. We have also discussed that issue at length with Faraz and a decision was made that more focus will be given to preparation for re-entering society, the family and even adulthood – another great step forward.

Some boys are lucky enough to have families, with whom they may be reintegrated. Last week, we spent a day in the field. We joined a social worker on her trip to make some home visits with to the families of three older boys, who are about to enter secondary school. As usual, as soon as we think we have somehow got our heads around things in Africa, we get put right back in our place again.

We drove for about an hour-and-a-half on an asphalt road, past Gitarama, before turning off onto a dirt road. We maneuvered around holes and treacherous turns as we climbed the steep "thousand hills" of the country. We drove past rice fields and coffee plantations, and deep into the dust-covered rural Rwanda. We finally came to our first stop and had to walk down a narrow path, along a steep hillside, and out to two small homes surrounded by absolutely nothing except for the most breathtaking view of green hills and mountains as far as the eye could see. This is where the family of one of our 18-year old EDD boys live. His mother lives there alone in a tiny two-room hut made of sticks and mud. His uncle lives in the second house. The poverty here is excruciating but amazingly mixed with personal warmth and kindness offered to us as guests. The hut is literally in the middle of nowhere, which was a drastic contrast to the urban situations we had seen previously. We were amazed by the silence and peacefulness of the place. Nothing to spoil the view over the mountains, no electricity lines, factory chimneys, buildings – nothing, absolutely nothing. The sound of the wind was soothing and beautiful. The mother is very poor and her husband is currently in prison. She has no other children apart from our EDD resident, so she manages to scrape by with basic foods she can grow by her house (she has no proper farming land) and takes on ad-hoc jobs during the coffee picking season. Her bedroom is her kitchen and the other room, into which you enter, is completely empty. The floor is made of dirt. There is literally nothing in the house, just a bed made of a few wooden boards, a makeshift charcoal stove next to it and a piece of string where a few clothes hang. It was shocking and heartbreaking to see. Many questions were buzzing in my head, such as, "How could we conceive reintegrating this boy with his family?"

His chances for a better life here are slim. He does love his mother though and perhaps one day, thanks to his education, their lives will improve. A beautiful thing happened during our short visit. The boy in question performed his song "ntawe uzagusimbura" for his relatives and friends. Bret recorded the song for the Kigali Street Kidz album, and Eric Biondo produced some lovely music for it. We brought an MP3 player and some small speakers to play it. The boy sang along, and it was great to see him so proud and happy.

On all three family visits we were met with extreme curiosity and warmth from the local communities. White people rarely come to these remote places, so we stuck well out. On our second visit, a large group of children gathered around us, eager to see a white person up-close, touch our hands in the welcome gesture, or test their few English words. While I was taking part in the family conversation along with the social worker, an extremely loud and wild laughter dragged me outside into the sun. Bret was dancing for the children while they held the camera to record him in action. Seeing those poor boys and girls, whose lives are hard and grim, laugh so hard, their laughter so innocent and unspoilt, I was overwhelmed with joy. It was contagious too! Boys and girls of no more than three or four-years-old, whom we had just seen carrying jerry cans of water along the road, or small stacks of bricks (4 to 6 units) on their heads, were having pure fun just looking at Bret. It is amazing what a few bboy moves can do…what a little laughter can do. It was hard to leave this bunch.

We then headed to our last house, and this time I decided to remain outside. So many children had started running up from neighbouring huts, that I just wanted to be there, say hello, ask them their names and give them some proper attention. They were all truly wonderful, with faces that look at you with such intensity that you feel your heart beat faster. I felt this amazing potential in all of them, yet was painfully aware that so few of them would ever realise it. I thought about their smiles and just tried to focus on that instead. These smiles, running around, giggling and whispering to each other about the white woman, are all happy moments, when they can forget reality. They can forget that the only food they will get that day is the raw potato they find on the ground, that their clothes are dirty and torn, that they have no shoes, no toys and no water to drink.

It is impossible for us to forget all this. It is hard not to think about the inequalities and injustices. All we can do is hope that these children will make it, that their resilience will help them through. Many of these thoughts were running through my head, forcing tears into my eyes and guilt into my conscience. I could not help but think that in two weeks I will be in busy London, at my favourite cheap Chinese eatery, catching up with friends – that MY life will go on – my good life – my easy life. I apologise if I sound gloomy or serious but my heart is heavy.

There was a lovely element to the third home visit. I met an elderly lady who was trying to chat with me. After a while, she ran off and brought some carrots to show me. She then invited me over to her house, where her husband and her had a 12-kg bag of carrots they had just dug up from their plot. Bret and I could maybe buy a kilo, but seeing how lovely these people were and how hard they had worked for this crop, I decided to buy the carrots for our boys at the centre. This made the couple very happy as it saved them from having to go many miles with the heavy bag to the market in order to sell the carrots. After we sealed the deal and the carrots landed at the back of our truck, I asked if we could take a photo of the couple. They gracefully agreed, but the lady made a sudden dash towards their home. She re-appeared several minutes later, wearing a clean top and a fresh headdress. It made me laugh as it proved that women are the same everywhere, regardless of their wealth, social status, nationality, place of residence, etc. We all want to look GOOD in the photo!

We returned home late in the afternoon, tired after withstanding the long and bumpy drive. Overall, we felt good that the boys had a chance to visit their families, and more importantly, that they were genuinely happy for having done so. We were also happy that we got to see these amazing places and meet these wonderful people in these tiny communities. These people have very little and could easily have chosen to ignore us because we are so different, but instead, they welcomed us and showed us kindness.

At the end of the week the weather had been acting up. Unusually for this time of the year (dry season), we had some heavy rain and even a serious storm. A ribbon of lightning tearing across the huge African sky is quite a sight. Not long after, the sun comes out and the humidity is back. It seems bizarre that the weather pattern has changed so suddenly, and it reflects how I feel at the moment. I am not sure if I have ever been so torn in my life. Even when I was moving to another country and leaving my whole family behind, I did not feel such sadness. It is just like that rain or the storm – coming over me without much warning. I feel my throat tighten and my eyes well up. Anything can make me feel that way – the last days are inevitably more sentimental. I may be walking down the street and a bus conductor will call me over to his bus and I respond in Kinyarwanda and he sends me a beaming smile (even though my answer is no). It may be a lady who begs on the street in a wheelchair by our house, whom I greet every day and exchange pleasantries in Kinyarwanda. It may be a trip to the market, where ladies from whom I have been buying fruit, veg and sundries over the past four months call me their 'friend', chat with me, never overcharge me and invite me to their homes. Yes, it is all these things, and there are of course our boys. They know we are leaving and they are sad. But they are also extremely kind, smart and understanding. They write us the most mature thank you notes, tell us their life stories, laugh and play with us. Many of them have only recently opened up fully and it feels amazing to have that connection, but at the same time it hurts so much that we will leave them so soon, that we cannot stay here any longer. Doubts often come over me as I try to figure out whether what we have done is good in the long-run, or was it just too brief, too superficial. When I see some of the boys smile, when I hear the ones who could not utter a word in English, speak it and even correct other ones, when I see them draw furiously for hours, I hope that our stay has not been without benefits for them and without giving them more hope and confidence.

One thing is certain – Faraz summed it up pretty well – we are now part of the EDD family and as with our own birth families – we are stuck with each other. These boys will remain in our hearts forever and as our last week with them approaches, we will have a lot of fun and plenty more to write about before we sign off from Rwanda.